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Cantata BWV 166
Wo gehest du hin?
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of April 24, 2016 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (April 24, 2016):
Cantata 166, 'Wo gehest du hin?" Cantate (Easter 4)

The four vocal soloists step to the fore in Bach’s unique solo with double chorale Cantata BWV 166 “Wo gehest du hin?” (Where are you going?, John 16:5), for Cantate Domino Domino or the Fourth Sunday after Easter, May 7, 1724. This 15-minute, balanced musical sermon features two internal da-capo arias for musical substance, a central chorale aria and closing plain chorale, and opening with the day’s sermon Vox Christi question in free arioso form. The answer to the question "Where are you going?" is the subject of the cantata. In the middle of the overtly festive Easter-Pentecost season, the mood moves, as does this post-resurrection period, from doubt and questioning to joy and affirmation. To reinforce the intimacy, Bach uses a small orchestra of one oboe, strings, and continuo, with one recitative and the emphasis on the male solo voice.1

Cantata 166 was introduced at the early main service of the Nikolaikirche before the sermon on the day’s Gospel, John 6:5-15, “The Work of the Perclete,” by Deacon Friedrich Werner (1659-1741), says Martin Petzoldt in his Bach Commentary, Vol. 1, Advent to Trinityfest.2

The Gospel reading is “The Work of the Paraclete,” called Holy Spirit, advocate, or intercessor. The passage is found in Jesus’ 12 Farewell Discourses, John’s Gospel, Chapters 14-16. In the Harmony of the Gospels, it is the second section in the Passion Narrative, just after Jesus’ prediction in Gethsemane of Peter’s denial (<Synopsis of the Four Gospels> RSV, United Bible Societies 1982: 290-96). The Epistle is James 1:17-21 “Every good gift is from above.” The German text of Luther’s 1545 translation and the English Authorised (King James) Version 1611 is found at Cantate Domino, the Fourth Sunday after Easter in Bach’s Leipzig, is called Cantate Sunday, "Sing to the Lord," based on the day’s Introit, Psalm 98:1: “O sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvelous things.” The entire text of this nine-verse psalm is found at

Cantata 166 Reduced Forces

Bach’s reasons for reduced forces are explained in Julian Mincham’s Cantata 166 introduction, BCW << This is another new cantata composed for this cycle. Bach, never predictable, again refuses to be constrained by any particular movement structure; there is, for example, no chorus other than the closing chorale. The reasons for this may very well lie within the text because the opening verse has a sense of uncertainty which, Bach may have felt, was conveyed more successfully by reduced forces. It is simply set as a short aria for bass, supported by strings and continuo, an oboe doubling the first violins.

The conciseness of the movement reflects the fact that the text is one of the briefest in the canon----where are you going? The significance of the question relates to Bach′s choice of singer, the bass taking the part of the voice of God addressing Mankind. This contention is reinforced by the fact that the importunate bass also commands the single recitative (no. 4), a mini lecture on the dangerously ephemeral pleasures of the world. The cantata may, therefore, be seen as a dialogue between God and the Christian, the former demanding of the latter a clear vision of his ultimate direction. The Christian muses briefly upon this thought, the general rudderless state of Mankind and the unexpectedness of death, whilst at the same time seeking God′s help in remaining steadfast.>>

Cantata 166: Movement Overview

Cantata 166, possibly to a text of Christian Weise Sr., uses the form of an opening rare double aria for bass (Vox Christi) and tenor da-capo aria, “Ich will an den Himmel denken” (I shall think of heaven). They are followed by a central four-part chorale, Stanza 3 “Christ, keep me in your thoughts,” from Bartolomäus Ringwaldt’s 1582 “Herr Jesu Christ, ich weiß gar wohl” (HJC, I know Thee quite well), to the anonymous 1597 melody “Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut” (HJC, Thou Highest Good). The bass recitative, No. 4, “Gleichwie die ein Regenwasser Bald verfließen” (Even as the rainwaters soon flow away), is a reference to Isaiah 55, God’s Offer of Mercy, Verse 10, the dictum for Cantata 18, “Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt” (Even as the rain and snow fall from heaven), Sexigesima, 1715, 1724, and c.1732-35.

Cantata 166 continues with, tutti Alto Aria, No. 5, “Man nehme sich in acht” (Let one take care of himself) and concludes with the four-part plain chorale, No. 6. Ämilie Juliane, Count of Schwartzburg-Rudolstadt, 12-stanza 1688 chorale text, “Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende” (Who knows how near to me is my end?), to the possible Georg Neumark melody “Wer nur den lieben Gott laßt wahlten” (Who only lets the dear God govern). Bach later used the same opening stanza and melody in the opening chorale chorus/recitative of Cantata 27 (composite text) for the 16th Sunday After Trinity in 1726 and the final stanza with the same melody, “Ich leb indes in dir vergnüget” (I live meanwhile in Thee contented) in Cantata BWV 84/5 for Septuagesima Sunday 1727, found in Picander’s fourth cantata cycle text.

Cantata 166 Form & Double Bill

The form of Cantata 166 – biblical dictum chorus/aria(s), chorale, recitative, aria, chorale – is Alfred Dürr’s third group form (Cantatas of JSB: 27f), found in the cantatas for the 4th to the 6th Sundays after Easter in Cycle 1 (1723) and Easter Monday to the 2nd Sunday After Easter, Cycle 2 (1725), all 10 possible by Christian Weise Sr., according to various sources. “Bach compositions that belong to this group [based on form, C = opening chorus] are divided between two cycles”: Cycle 1, Septugesima (BWV 144, C), Annunciation (Anh. 199 text only), and Easter 4 (Cantate) to Easter 6 (Exaudi), BWV 166 (solo), 86 (C), 37 (C), and 44 (C); and Cycle 2, Easter Monday to Second Sunday after Easter (Misericordias Domini), and Reformation Festival, BWV 6 (C), 42 (solo), 85 (C), and 79 (C). Among these 10, Bach set most opening chorus biblical dicta, the exceptions being Cantatas 166 with a bass arioso and BWV 42 (Easter 1) with opening sinfonia followed by tenor recitative and no central chorale setting. Among the nine cantatas with central chorale settings, most are soprano chorale arias (BWV 166, 86, 6, and 85), BWV 37 is a soprano-alto duet), BWV 44 is a tenor aria, and Anh. 199 has text only. There are two cantatas with four-part plain internal chorales, BWV 144, and 79.

Dürr also suggests that Cantata 166 may have been performed in 1724 on a double bill with lost Weimar Cantate Domino Cantata BWV Anh. 191, “Leb ich, oder leb lich nicht” (Salomo Franck text 1715 extant); scheduled 5/19/1715, reperform? 5/10/1716; text possibly set by Bach, Dürr, <Studien2> 1977: 67, 244f; Dürr, <Cantatas of JSB> p.315; Klaus Hofmann, <BJ 1993> pp. 28f. Music lost, text possibly set by Bach. Possible reperformance 5/7/1724 with BWV 166 on double bill, says Christoph Wolff, “Wo bleib Bachs fünfer Kantatenjahgang?”, <Bach Jahrbuch> 1982, “Kleine Beiträge,” pp. 151f. Wolff shows that certain Weimar cantatas were reperformed in 1723-1724 in Leipzig as part of a partial double-bill internal (?fifth) cycle. Others are BWV 24/185 (Trinity 4), 179/199 (Trinity 11), 181/18 (Sexagesima), 22/23 (Quinquagesima), 182/A199 (/Annunciation) Palm Sunday, 31/4 (Easter Sunday), 172/59 (Pentecost Sunday), and 194/165 (Trinityfest). Regarding Cantata Anh. 191, there is no source-critical evidence or music extant and beyond the various studies cited above, the Bach Compendium and Petzoldt’s Bach Commentary do not consider the Franck text.

Cantata 166 Movements, Scoring, Incipts, Key, Meter4

1. Aria/Arioso free with ritornelli new melodic material (“Vokaleinbau,” vocal in-building/insertion) [Bass; Oboe, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Wo gehest du hin?” (Where are you going?, John 16 : 5); B-flat Major; 3/8 dance style?.
2. Aria da capo [Tenor; Oboe, Continuo]: A. “Ich will an den Himmel denken / Und der Welt mein Herz” nicht schenken.” (I shall think of heaven / and not give away my heart to the world.); B. Denn ich gehe oder stehe, / So liegt mir die Frag im Sinn: Mensch, ach Mensch, wo gehst du hin?” (For whether I go or stand still / I have this question in my mind: Man, ah man, where are you going?); g minor; 4/4.
3. Chorale Aria [Soprano; Violino I/II e Viola all' unisono, Continuo]: “Ich bitte dich, Herr Jesu Christ, / Halt mich bei den Gedanken” (I ask you, Lord Jesus Christ, / keep me in your thoughts”; c minor; 4/4.
4. Recitative secco[Bass; Continuo]: “Gleichwie die Regenwasser bald verfließen . . . / So geht es auch der Freude in der Welt” (Just as rainwater soon flows away [Isaiah 55:10] . . . / so is it also with joy in this world); g minor to d minor; 4/4.
5. Aria da capo [Alto; Oboe, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. Man nehme sich in acht, / Wenn das Gelücke lacht.” (You should take care / when good fortune smiles.); B. “Denn es kann leicht auf Erden / Vor abends anders werden, / Als man am Morgen nicht gedacht.” (For easily in this earthly life / before evening things can turn out differently / from what you thought in the morning.); B-flat Major; ¾ minuet style.
6. Chorale plain [SATB; Oboe e Violino I col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo]: “Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende!” (Who knows how near me is my end!); g minor; 4/4.

Note on the Test: Bach’s Cantate Sunday Cantatas 166 and 108 anticipate the related discourse theme in John 15:26-16:4, “The Work of the Paraclete,” the Gospel reading for Exaudi, the Sunday After Ascension. Textual allusions to the Cantata Sundae Epistle Reading, James 1:17-21 (Gift from above), are found in Cantatas 108/4 (v.18) and 108/6 (v.17) in the 1725 second cycle. The Gospel references in BWV 166 are the opening bass aria, the dictum John 16:5b, “Where goest thou hither?”, and John 16:7, Jesus’ departure; the tenor aria No. 2, “Ich will an den Himmel denken” (I will in heaven think), John 16:8-11, the fulfillment of Jesus’ mission, John 16:7; and the bass recitative No. 4, John 16:13, the “Holy Spirit as the truth of the things to come.”

Cantate Domino Chorale Usage

In the Leipzig service and Bach’s usage, certain Easter chorales were used to anticipate the succeeding Feasts of Ascension and Pentecost, as Bach had done in Epiphany chorales anticipating the three pre-Lenten Sundays. Cantata BWV 108, for the Fourth Sunday After Easter 1725 in the von Ziegler text, closes (No. 6) with Gerhardt’s Pentecost chorale, “Gott Vater, sende deinen Geist.” Service Music for Cantate (Fourth Sunday after Easter, BCW, Douglas Cowling): Introit: “Cantate Domino” (LU 826); Motet: “Cantate Domino”; Hymn de Tempore: “Christ Lag in Todesbanden” (Easter); Pulpit Hymn: “Christ ist Erstanden” (13-part verse, AAB), found in BWV 66/6 (Easter Mon.), PC 276; Hymns for Chancel, Communion& Closing: Hermann “Erscheinen ist der Herrlichen Tag” (14 stanzas), found in 67/4 (Easter 1), and 145/5 (Easter Tues.).

Cantata 166, No. 3, is a soprano trio chorale aria, “Ich bitte dich, Herr Jesu Christ, / Halt mich bei den Gedanken” (I ask you, Lord Jesus Christ, / keep me in your thoughts”; Stanza 3, Bartolomäus Ringwaldt’s 1582 “Herr Jesu Christ, ich weiß gar wohl” (HJC, I know Thee quite well), to the melody “Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut” (HJC, Thou Highest Good). This is Bach’s only use of the nine-stanza Ringwaldt 1582 chorale text. The German text and Francis Browne English translation are found at BCW Information on the text and melody are found at BCW The possibly-Ringwaldt associated melody is found set to its own Ringwaldt text as Chorale Cantata BWV 113 for the 11th Sunday After Trinity 1724; Cantata BWV 168/6 for the 9th Sunday After Trinity, ?1716, 1725; four-part plain chorale BWV 334; and to a different text (S. 12, Herr Christ, ich drei zu dir) in BWV 48/7 for the 19th Sunday After Trinity 1723.

Cantata 166, No. 6, is a closing plain chorale, Rudolstadt, “Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende” (mel. Wer nur den lieben Gott laßt wahlten), also in BWV 84/5 Septuageisma). The text and Browne’s English translation are found at BCW Text and melody information at BCW, Bach used the Neumark melody to its own associated seven-stanza Neumark text of 1641, often associated with the Fifth Sunday After Trinity (Stiller: 229), in Cantata 21/9, chorale chorus (Stanzas 2 & 5), for the 3rd Sunday After Trinity and “per ogni tempo” to a Salomo Franck text, 1714 and 1723; closing plain chorale in Cantata 88/7 (Stanza 7) for the 5th Sunday after Trinity 1726 to a Meinengen-Rudolstadt text (Cycle 3); in Chorale Cantata 93 for the 5th Sunday After Trinity 1724 and c.1732; to close c.1736-37 Wedding Cantata 197, “Gott ist unsre Zuversicht” (God is our Trust), to an unknown librettist, probably with the last verse; in the A-Minor/Major free-standing four-part chorale, BWV 434, possible used in the Picander fourth cantata cycle: P 13/5 or 58/5, respectively for Trinity +15, 9/51728 or Epiphany +2, 1/16/1729; Schübler Chorale No. 3, BWV 647 (c.1748), transcription of soprano-alto duet, BWV 93/4; and in miscellaneous organ chorale preludes BWV 642, 690, and 691(a), dates unknown.

Cantate Sunday Chorale Usages: 1724: 166/3, Ringwald “HJC, ich weiß” (S.trio, S.3), 6. Rudolstadt “Wer weiss, wie nahe (S.1); 1725: 108/6, Gerhardt “Gott Vater, sende deinen Geist” Pent. (S10); mel. “Kommt her zu mir”; 1726: JLB-14/8 Grunwald “O du allersußeste Freude” (S.1, 5). Cantata 108: No. 6, Gerhardt “Gott Vater, sende deinen Geist” Pent. (S.10), mel. “Kommt her zu mir,” G. Grünwald 1630 (16 stanzas); Stiller, Ascension, Dresden; Leipzig, Pentecost Sunday & Tuesday, “Various Hymns”; also in BWV 74/8, Pentecost, S.2. Cantata JLB-14 (Rudolstadt: Meiningen Prince Ernst Ludwig), No. 8 Grunwald “O du allersußeste Freude” (S.1, 5); no JSB setting. Picander’s cantata printed text P-34, “Ja, Ja, ich bin nun ganz Verlassen, (Yes, Yes, I am now entirely forsaken), intended for 5/8/1729, contains no closing chorale.

Thus Bach beginning in 1724 utilized a wealth of non-Easter Season omnes tempore chorale texts and melodies in his later Easter Season cantatas, anticipating the coming half-year Trinity Season of omnes tempore thematic, didactic devotional chorales.

Meanwhile, it is possible that Bach had no appropriate, readily available chorale to use as a chorale cantata for Cantate Sunday in 1725, as well as the First Sunday After Easter (Quasimodogeniti) and was limited in the possfor Easter and Pentecost Tuesdays as well as the Third Sunday After Easter (Jubilate).

Bach in 1725 for Cantate Sunday Cantata 108 (text by Ziegler) would repeat the structural format of his 1724 Cantate Sunday Cantata, BWV 166: double aria-dictum with Vox Christi opening, choral movement in the middle and closing chorale, similar to Dürr’s third cantata group form. This format would enable Bach to choose chorale verses and melodies appropriate and integral to the Biblical texts as well as the sermon theme and cyclical emblem of Dr. Christian Weise Sr. Thus Bach was able to engage a new poet with enriched texts in a variety of movements and formal structures providing both great contrast and sound repetition.

Fugitive Notes: Repertory, Workshop, Farewell Discourses

As with other Sundays after Easter, for Cantate Sunday, only two works survive by Bach, with remnants of as many as five cantatas extant that may have been performed by Johann Sebastian Bach:

*Cantata BWV Anh. 191, “Leb ich, oder leb lich nicht” (Live I or live I not), S. Franck text only (1715); ?5/7/1724 w/BWV 166.
*Cantata BWV 166, “Wo gehest du hin?” (Where goest thou?), 5/27/1724; possibly Christian Weise text.
*Cantata BWV 108, “Es ist euch gut, daß ich hingehe” (It is good for you that I go away), 4/9/1725; Mariana von Ziegler text (1728).
*Johann Ludwig Bach Cantata JLB-14, “Die Weisheit kommt nicht in eine boschaft Seele (Wisdom comes not in a malicious soul), Rudolstadt text; 5/12/1726, reperformance c.1743-46.
*Picander Cantata text P-34, “Ja, Ja, ich bin nun ganz Verlassen (Yes, Yes, I am now entirely forsaken), 5/28/1729; no closing chorale, no music found.

Bach in the Easter-Pentecost season often composed only two works for each of the 14 services, while eight of them were feast days (Easter and Pentecost three each, Ascension, and Trinityfest). As Thomas cantor, Bach was busiest at this end of the school year when he fulfilled various teaching and administrative duties.

Thus, the following services have only two extant, original works, with few designated chorale cantatas and third cycle works: Easter Sunday BWV 4 and 31 (repeats), Easter Monday (6 and 66), Easter Tuesday (134, 145), Easter 1 (42, 67), Easter 4 (108, 166), Easter 5 (86, 87), Easter 6 (44 and 183), Pentecost Tuesday (175, 184).

A fascinating but obscured glimpse into Bach’s compositional workshop is provided in the tenor aria (no. 2), A. “Ich will an den Himmel denken” (I shall think of heaven). In the original parts set inherited by Emmanuel Bach (the score is lost, ?Friedemann), there is no violin part for this trio aria but an Organ Trio in g minor, BWV 584, has the missing musical line of the first section of the 78-bar ABA da-capo aria in Cantata 166. After considerable studies, found in BCML Cantata 166 Discussion Part 2, Thomas Braatz (, the original source is a lost aria with two obbligato instruments (violin and oboe) and the organ transcription was not made by Bach himself (Alfred Dürr, NBA KB I/12: 18-20), but possibly a student. BCW Music: Mvt. 2 - NBA Reconstruction Score (, Score of Trio for Organ BWV 584 (arrangement of BWV 166/2;

Five of Jesus’ 12 Farewell Discourses are the Gospel readings for the four final Sundays after Easter and Pentecost Sunday. The Sundays, service themes and cantatas are:

*Jubilate [3rd Sunday after Easter, "Make a joyful noise"], John 16:16-23, “Sorrow turned to joy” in “Christ’s Farewell”; Cantatas 12, 103, 146 (224).
*Cantate [4th Sunday after Easter, "Sing"], John 16:5-15, “The work of the paraclete”; Cantatas 166, 108.
*Rogate [5th Sunday after Easter, "Pray"], John 16:23-30, “Prayer in the name of Jesus” as Christ’s Promise to the Disciples; Cantatas 86, 87.
*Exaudi [Sunday after Ascension, "Hear"], John 15:26-16:4, “Spirit will come” in the “Witness of the paraclete”; Cantatas 44, 183
*Whit Sunday [1st Day of Pentecost], John 14: 23-31 “Promise of the Paraclete” as “The Gift of Peace”; Cantatas 172, 59, 74, 34, 218


1 Cantata 166, BCW Details and Discography, Score Vocal & Piano [1.43 MB],, Score BGA [1.30 MB], References, BGA: XXXIII(Cantatas 161-170, Franz Wüllner, 1887), NBA KB I/12 (Easter 4 to Ascension, Dürr, 1960), Bach Compendium BC A 71, Zwang: K 68. Commenntary: Whittaker I:288-92, Robertson 132f, Young 66f; BCW liner notes, John Eliot Gardiner,[sdg107_gb].pdf pages 5-6; Klaus Hofmann,[BIS-CD1261].pdf, pages 7-8
2 Petzoldt, Bach Kommentar: Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke Kommentierung der Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastan Bachs; Vol. 2, Die Geistlichen Kantaten vom 1. Advent bis zum Trinitatisfest; Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2007: 850.
3 This material and later information is based on “Cantata 166: Cantate Sunday, Fugitive Notes,” William Hoffman (November 16, 2010), BCML Cantata 166 Discussion, Part 3,
4 Cantata 166, Text and Francis Browne English translation, BCW

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 1, 2016):
Cantata BWV 166 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of Cantata BWV 166 "Wo gehest du hin?" (Where are you going?) for Cantate [4th Sunday after Easter] on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of oboe, 2 violins, viola & continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (14):
Recordings of Individual Movements (11):
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

I also put at the BCW Home Page:
2 audios and 2 videos of the cantata. A short description below the audio/video image is linked to the full details at the discography pages.

I believe this is the most comprehensive discography of this cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 166 missing from these pages, or want to correct/add details of a recording already presented on the BCW, please do not hesitate to inform me.

You can also read on the BCW the current discussion of the cantata in the BCML (4th round):



Cantata BWV 166: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion
Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings


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